Saturday, January 9, 2016


Well, it has been a whirlwind week – but the worst of it is over. I always feel so much better once the lines are slipped and we steam out of Buzzards Bay. Of course I miss my family, but I will not miss the stress of the first week of the Seaterm.

It starts with getting the ship activated, making it capable of hosting 700 crew. Then we have to register all the cadets – 598 was the starting number. Loading the ship with everything from hot dogs to laundry soap, from numerous vendors, all wanting to get their trucks unloaded and get on to the next customer. Then the training sessions for the cadets, and preparation for the important drills for the US Coast Guard. All the while we are coping with the needs of crew and cadets, little things, but they all add up to time consumed.

And the anxiety the cadets feel, in some cases so strong that they elect to withdraw from the voyage, or they become ill and have to depart. We now have 592 cadets, we lost six in six days.

As I said, the culmination of the week is successful completion of emergency drills for the US Coast Guard on Friday. Our crew and cadets did very well, earning very high praise from the inspection team aboard. It is enjoyable to demonstrate proficiency, and for it to be accepted so graciously. Our thanks to the whole team from Sector South East New England.

This morning was damp and cool, but it did not stop the 100 or so parents to be waiting on the dock at 0600 to see their cadets and take a brief tour of the Kennedy. By sailing time the crowd was easily 1,000 strong, shouting encouragement to their cadets, cheering over milestones like the gangway coming off, and most of all when we sounded the whistle indicating we were on our way.

The unmooring went very smoothly, as pilots Captain Clint Walker (MMA’86) and trainee Dale Harper (MMA ’02) directed the tugs and engine commands. They did a nice job considering the tide reversed about 20 minutes early. Tugs Buckley McAllister and Iona McAllister did a superb job of pushing us around.

Getting Kennedy away on time is always a challenge, but the strong team of employees make it look easy – Chief Laffan and Chief Mate Campbell, Captain Rozak and Fritz all bring years of experience and leadership to their departments. Couldn’t do it without them. Finally, the shore-side gangs of the
Marine Department, Facilities and Public Safety make contributions that seem small, but are critical to a successful evolution. Finally, our Owner’s representative Jeff Brown seems to always be on the job, not just keeping track of work projects that may affect performance, but actually fixing stuff. One day I looked out my window and saw him climbing a ladder to take a look at a malfunctioning windshield wiper – and he fixed it.

So, after having done a compass adjustment and conducted a vibration analysis on main propulsion machinery, we are headed south to the warm waters of the Caribbean. But there is some weather in our way….ah, the life of a sailor.

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